Sep 27, 2005 5:19 pm US/Pacific


Lightning Storm Shocks Sacramento Area


John Lobertini

(CBS) Monday night’s lightning storm may go down as one of the worst in Northern California history.

It lit up the sky for hours in the Sacramento area, and knocked out our CBS sister station KOVR, with a direct hit on the TV station’s main transmission tower.

At the height of the storm, there were more than 500 lightning strikes recorded in a one hour period.

KOVR was knocked off the air 30 minutes before the 5 o'clock news. Surrounded by electronic equipment, transmission operator Ginger Myrick, received the shock of her life. "All of the sudden it was this flash of light and a loud bang,” said Myrick. “Smoke went everyone and then I felt that jolt to my knees."

The spectacular light show could be seen from the Bay Area to the Sierra, Fresno to the south and Redding to the north.

The national weather service estimates, as many as 3,000 lightning bolts hit the ground between 4 PM and midnight. Long-time weather forecasters say there's nothing in the history books that compare.

“That type of lightening activity is typically reserved for the midwest, the sourthern plains, observed John Juskie of the National Weather Service. “This was way out there on the scope of weather events for Northern California.”

The storm knocked out power to thousand of people, but no injuries or deaths have been reported:

At least two direct hits, however, set homes on fire. In nearby Gold River, lighting hitting a satellite dish sparked a fire that left behind $200,000 worth of damage.

In Woodland, homeowners saw a tremendous light show, but the damage was minor. “We just saw the lightning coming closer and closer,” exclaimed homeowner Sandra Dawson. “We just kept counting to see how far away it was, turns out it was pretty close."

At KOVR, the lightning storm fried most of the technical equipment leaving news anchors and reporters with no sound bites, videotape, graphics or commercials. So anchors just talked about the storm that everyone was talking about.

"We got information out,” said KOVR Assistant News Director Lori Waldon. “We were able to tell people the lightning that hit, the weather conditions, where it was headed, what people could expect as they were driving home."